Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived at Paris airport and inspired “The Terminal,” has died

Kiran

A 77-year-old Iranian refugee whose ordeal inspired the 2004 film “The Terminal” died Saturday inside Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport, where he had lived for 18 years.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri died around midnight local time of a heart attack, a spokesman for the Paris airport authority said Sunday. “He was an iconic, charismatic character. There was a lot of emotion at the airport after his death.”

Nasseri was loved by airport staff, who mourned his death this weekend, a spokesman said.

Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film, set at New York’s JFK International Airport, stars Tom Hanks as an Eastern European man stuck in a transit zone after a coup in his fictitious home country improves his legal status. Finally, the protagonist left the airport, briefly fulfilled his father’s mission and then went home.

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‘Terminal’: Cleared for Takeoff

But Nasseri’s decades-long immigration struggle is far more complicated. Over the years, he provided a number of conflicting details about his life, but in the end there was no end to Hollywood.

Nasseri was either exiled or fled the political turmoil in Iran in the 1970s and settled in Belgium for several years. He reportedly set out to find his British mother and tried to travel elsewhere in Europe, only to be repeatedly turned away from various countries for lacking the required immigration documents, according to the BBC.

In 1988, French authorities stopped him at a Paris airport when he tried to pass without an identity card, which he said was stolen. The authorities held him for several days in limbo in the transit zone, then released him to one of the Charles de Gaulle terminals.

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Caught in the immigration trap, he soon set up his own makeshift house at the airport and lived for several years in Terminal 1.

They dreamed of reaching America. Forced service in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard locked them up.

He has been the subject of news articles and at least two movies. His airport home became a media sensation after the 2004 release of “The Terminal.” DreamWorks reportedly paid him several hundred thousand dollars for the rights to his story.

In 1999, France offered him a residency permit. But he continued to live inside the airport until 2006. After leaving the airport, he was seen struggling to adapt to life outside.

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“The reality is that he has psychological problems,” an airport spokesman said. “He was a homeless person who was taken care of by the airport community and the doctors.”

The spokesman said Nasseri had returned to the airport’s Terminal 2F in mid-September, after leaving the orphanage where he was staying.

“Many people went on until he was hospitalized and placed in a nursing home adapted to his needs,” the spokesman said.

Other refugees found themselves in a similar situation, though not for very long.

In 2018, a Syrian man stayed in a Malaysian airport for seven months before Canada took him in. He was caught without a legal place to live while unable to return to his war-torn country.

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